PGTS Journal Edition 0019
Or should I say yet another missed deadline. The October issue simply did not occur. However since I have set up a rolling month process, I have to put something here. One of these days I swear I am going to join "Procastinator's Anonymous" - I just keep putting it off.
Good Bye Dick, You will not be missed!
So while looking for something to put here. I have lifted some of the material from my outbox, which contained considerable comment about the government re-shuffle in late September ...
Graeme Phillipson, who writes for Next, the IT supplement in Tuesday's The Age, composed a rather gleeful farewell to Senator Alston, who as a result of the re-shuffle, is finally leaving the top job in the Department of Communications IT and the Arts (DCITA). His departure will be accompanied by a resounding chorus of cheers from IT&C professionals around the country.
In fact, rather than a fond farewell to Alston, Phillipson's article was an open letter to the incoming Minister (Darryl Williams, former Attorney General). In his article, Phillipson asserts that he (Williams) had exceedingly small shoes to fill, and sincerely hoped that he would do better than his under-achieving predecessor (after all he could hardly do worse!) A cartoon above the article showed a rather bemused Darryl Williams surveying his new work-place, wrecked beyond belief!
At PGTS, we are not inclined to be as generous as The Age. Over the years, IT&C has built a reputation for mismanagement, poor decision-making and cost over-runs. This has sometimes been undeserved, but mostly due to unrealistic expectations, over-optimistic estimates, and the ephemeral (dare we say "soft") nature of software. When it comes to mismanagement however, the former head of DCITA has lowered the bar considerably, plumbing new, and hitherto unimagined, depths in poor performance. So here is a brief summary of some the exceptional low-lights:
- September 2002: As part of an ongoing campaign to make the remaining public share of Telstra an attractive candidate for privatisation, Senator Alston was pivotal in effecting an increase in the carrier's line rental charges. Announcing these new charges, he said that it it was good news for pensioners and low-income earners (??!!). In fairness we should admit that he may have been referring to amendments that came out of the labrynthine political deals that were cut in order to get the legislation through the senate. Still it is remarkable that none of the reporters asked him to explain how increasing a fixed charge could possibly be good news for a person on a low income! Presumably the journalists were comatose (this happens often when people listen to the Senator for any length of time).
- February 2003: Senator Alston slammed the ACS report which stated that the IT sector was suffering record unemployment. This is well-understood by most informed industry insiders, who realise that the IT industry is going through the worst employment crisis ever. Nevertheless, throughout the previous year (and it is rumoured, even in early 2003), he was heard to use the words IT skills shortage (Although by 2003, he may have admitted that The IT skills shortage was easing) (???!!!)
- Senator Alston excelled himself when he accused the ABC of biased coverage of the Iraq war. He accompanied his accusations with a long rambling list, The basic thrust of the allegations were that the public broadcaster had failed to deliver an impartial account of the war, Obviously the good Senator would have preferred a coverage more like that presented on Fox News. Although the list that he provided had, like many of the Senators utterances, been skillfully designed to put the reader to sleep, one gem, shone so brightly that it was mentioned on the Monday Media Report: An ABC reporter (he alleged) used the phrase "A spokesmen for the (Bush) administration conceded ...", According to the Senator the word "conceded" displayed the ABC's bias. The Senator said that the reporter should have used words like "the spokesman stated ..." or "the spokesman said ..." Yes, well a few words spring to mind when considering the Senator and the discharge of his office. We wont utter them here however. We don't want an "R" Rating, do we?
- Any list of low lights would have to include the great Digital TV debacle. However we wont make further mention of it. There just isn't enough space to give it the consideration that it is worth.
- Likewise for the inquiry into Telstra, which (surprise, surprise), concluded that the remaining public share of the carrier should be sold off.
A low light in the former minister's career actually occurred after it ended! This month, just after quitting the communications portfolio, Senator Alston admitted to owning Telstra shares during his time as minister. He said that he had not been aware of these shares which were in a family trust (???!!!). The Prime Minister spoke in support of his Minister. Apparently this did not contravene the guidelines, which the PM had laid down for public accountability, and did not constitute a conflict of interest. In which case, a genuine conflict of interest would be something to behold! Perhaps Australian citizens could run that defence next time they run afoul of the ATO (fat bloody chance citizens!)
At PGTS we would like to join with many other IT&C professionals in
Australia and wish Senator Alston Bon Voyage, (or maybe just
voyage?) and hope that it is long, long time before he ever has
anything to do with industry again!